Astronauts making the long journey to Mars and potentially even further will need to have extensive medical skills far more advanced than the current level of training, experts have warned.
While astronauts are very carefully selected with a huge focus on their prospective healthcare needs, the longer the journey the higher the risk.
NASA estimates that a crewed mission to Mars could potentially last for a staggering 1,100 days.
“Space exploration missions to the Moon and Mars are planned in the coming years. During these long duration flights, the estimated risk of severe medical and surgical events, as well as the risk of loss of crew life are significant.” according to Dr Matthieu Komorowski, Consultant in Intensive Care and Anaesthesia, Charing Cross Hospital, London, UK.
The subject of giving medical treatment while in deep space will be a major source of discussion for experts at the Euroanaesthesia congress in Geneva and will range from basic medical training to experimental new technologies that could help astronauts who are millions of miles from Earth.
At the very least, Dr Komorowski believes that every member of the crew should be given a base level of medical training, and there should be procedures in place to allow for a transference of training should the crew’s doctor become severely ill or incapacitated.
However there are going to be situations where this will still not be enough.
“In remote environments, medical and surgical conditions with a low probability of success that also require using vast quantities of consumables are often not attempted. Similarly, during future space exploration missions, the crew must prepare for non-survivable illnesses or injuries that will exceed their limited treatment capability.” warns Dr Komorowski.
To try and overcome some of these hurdles Dr Komorowski will discuss a range of different solutions and countermeasures that could be employed to reduce the risks associated with deep space travel.
These will take inspiration from environments here on Earth such as Antarctic polar bases and expeditions to remote parts of the planet.
Some of the ideas have included matching the blood types of all the crew members allowing for blood transfusions.
Another idea would be to use an advanced 3D printer to build medical equipment on-demand, saving precious space when their use could not be guaranteed.